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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging if argumentative attempt to reconstruct everyday religion in biblical times, 29 May 2011
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Paperback)
In this scholarly but accessible book, William Dever explores what archaeological finds in the Middle East can tell us about the nature of `everyday' religion in ancient Israel and Judah. And he paints a fascinating picture. As the title suggests, the material evidence tells a story somewhat at odds with the biblical picture. Far from being monotheistic from the outset, Israelite religion appears to have played host to a range of deities, including Asherah, the female counterpart (or consort) to El, and later Yahweh. (There's a fierce debate among scholars as to whether references in the Bible and from archaeological sites, notably at Kuntillet Ajrud, refer to Asherah as a personal deity, or to `the asherah' as a fertility symbol wielded by Yahweh. Dever comes down firmly in favour of the former). We should dispense, too, with the idea of Israelite worship as aniconic (that is, making no use of images of God) and centred on Jerusalem: the archaeological evidence suggests worship persisting at a number of `temple' sites - to say nothing of its apparently widespread practice at local shrines and in household worship - well into the latter history of Judah under the Deuteronomistic reform movement. What's more, such worship seems to have relied significantly on images and depictions of the divine.

Engaging and clearly written though it is, Dever's book is not without its faults. In his proper concern to redress the balance between biblical `book' religion (which he characterises, probably not entirely unfairly, as that of an elite) and folk religion, the author is a remorseless critic of competing scholarly positions (and even some that are broadly in line with his own), which he seeks to demolish at undue length. There's a danger, too, that in placing as much reliance on archaeology as the sole trustworthy `objective' interpreter of the past as he appears to do, it becomes precisely the same distorting lens he accuses `biblical theology' of having been in the past. Ultimately, I felt he set up too strong a dichotomy between official and folk religion, as Francesca Stavrakopoulou, in `Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah' (2010: London: T&T Clark), has noted.

These are significant criticisms, but Dever has nonetheless given us a clear, copiously illustrated account of a topic that has been the subject of enormous scholarly interest for two decades or more. It's a fast-moving debate, full of controversy, and Dever's book is undoubtedly not the last word on the subject. But it will give you a good idea of just how archaeology is changing the `landscape' of religion in ancient Israel and Judah, and shifting our perception of the realities that lie half-submerged in, or buried beneath, the biblical texts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong archaeological and religious study, 1 Nov. 2009
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This review is from: Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Paperback)
Excellent book - starts with an over-long and rumbustious taking-to-task of virtually everyone else who has written on this topic. Followed by very solid and sensible take on Israelite folk-religion as juxtaposed with the religion of the Temple elite, reinstating Asherah as the female component of the Old Testament Godhead.

One primary qualm is that Professor Devers does not address the theological work of Margaret Barker, and therefore his closing session on Temple theology is lightweight: if Josiah found a statue of Asherah, etc, in the Temple then the faith of the kings and priests was probably pretty closely aligned to that of the villagers and the Deuteronomists were a distinct and third point of view at odds with both - which is what they said they were.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top quality product and fascinating historical conclusions, 7 Sept. 2010
By 
D. LIGHTBODY "davel22" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Paperback)
This book summarises the archaeological evidence attesting to the existence of a goddess Asherah who was worshipped alongside god/yaweh in ancient Israel and Judah. The information also draws heavily on the bible and biblical scholarship and looks at the ramifications of the archaeological evidence on faith and belief related to the bible. The conclusions could be seen by some traditionalists as quite radical, but the evidence supports them.

The book reads well and is not overly academic, but it does tend to get a little bogged down in overly-detailed criticism of the wider scholarship on this subject, but this is useful for those wishing to study the subject in some more depth. More maps, site plans and photos etc would have been good as well.

Dever is well experienced in the field, and his views should certainly be given the weight they deserve.

Worth buying.

Dave Lightbody
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exellent read and interesting subject. I had to read ..., 11 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Paperback)
Exellent read and interesting subject. I had to read it and review it for my course, it was well balanced considering the authors background. Credit was given where credit was due to those of opposing opinions.
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Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel
Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel by William G. Dever (Paperback - 21 Jan. 2008)
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